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Published April 2023 | Published
Journal Article Open

General relativistic stream crossing in tidal disruption events


A star is tidally stretched into an elongated stream after being disrupted by a supermassive black hole (BH). Using an approximate tidal equation, we calculate the stream's thickness evolution along its geodesic, during which we treat the effect of nozzle shocks as a perfect bounce. Self-intersection occurs when the closest approach separation is smaller than the stream thickness. We explore a wide parameter space of orbital angular momenta, inclinations, and BH spins to obtain the properties of stream intersection. Two collision modes are identified: in ∼half of the cases, the collision occurs near the pericentre at an angle close to 0o ('rear-end' mode) and the other half have collisions far from the pericentre with collision angles close to 180o ('head-on' mode). The intersection typically occurs between consecutive half-orbits with a delay time that spans a wide range (from months up to a decade). The intersection radius generally increases with the orbital angular momentum and depends less strongly on the inclination and BH spin. The thickness ratio of the two colliding ends is of order unity and the transverse separation is a small fraction of the sum of the two thicknesses, so a large fraction of the stream's mass is shock heated in an offset collision. Many of the numerical results can be analytically understood in a post-Newtonian picture, where we find the reason for stream collision to be a geometric one. Future hydrodynamic simulations including recombination are needed to understand the long-term effects of pressure forces which are neglected here.

Additional Information

© 2023 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model). Gauri Batra was supported by the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Wenbin Lu was supported by the David and Ellen Lee Fellowship at Caltech and the Lyman Spitzer, Jr Fellowship at Princeton University. The research of Clement Bonnerot was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMF5076. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 836751. DATA AVAILABILITY. The data produced in this study will be shared on reasonable request to the authors.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023